Going Nuts for Green Almonds

Doram Gaunt
Doram Gaunt
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Doram Gaunt
Doram Gaunt

Green almonds are an elusive matter, in every sense of the word. Their season is short, their flavor and texture are delicate and hard to define, and the almonds themselves are smooth and white as ivory. Their very short season is divided into two: At the beginning, in late April and early May, they can be eaten whole, as a sour fruit that can serve as a snack, an ingredient in a cooked dish, as material for pickling or as part of a salad; at a later ripening stage, until June, the green shell becomes too hard and coarse to eat, therefore it has to be peeled off and only the almond itself can be eaten. Very soon the thin inner shell that covers the seed will also harden, and then it will turn into the familiar almond.

The green almonds that are now available in stores and markets are the type that require shelling. A kilo of almonds and half an hour of concentrated shelling will yield about one cup of almonds. But these almonds are soft and fresh, with a unique and delicate flavor. They stand out in terms of texture as well as flavor - although they are crunchy, they are not exactly like fully ripe almonds. They can, of course, be eaten as is, as healthful snacks, with or without dipping them in salt and lemon. If you decide to add them to salads or other foods, it's important to remember that their delicate flavor and texture will be masked by strong and dominant flavors. Green almonds need a quiet environment to fully shine.

Fennel and green almond salad

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

1 kg. green almonds (yields about 1 cup after shelling)

2 fennel bulbs

1 tbsp. reduced balsamic vinegar - available in delicatessens (optional)

For the dressing:

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. mustard

1 tsp. sugar

Salt and pepper (preferably white pepper)

Using a sharp knife, remove the base and the hard branches from the fennel bulbs. Put the green leaves aside, if there are any. Place the fennel on its base and cut into slices as thin as possible. Place the fennel and the shelled almonds in a bowl.

In a small bowl, whip the dressing ingredients until you get a uniform emulsion. Pour on the fennel and the almonds and toss. Set aside for about half an hour so the flavors can be absorbed.

Before serving, drip a little reduced balsamic vinegar on the salad and scatter the green fennel leaves over it.

Marinated fish with avocado salad and green almonds

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

4 fillets of very fresh fish, skinless, weighting a total of 400 gm. (denise - sea bream, lavrak - sea bass, farida - red snapper, or lokus - grouper)

For the marinade:

1 tsp. coarse sea salt

1 tsp. sugar

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. olive oil

For avocado and almond salad:

2 medium-sized avocados, peeled and pitted, cut into 1-cm. cubes

1 kg. green almonds (yields about 1 cup after shelling)

1/4 small hot chili pepper, red or green, chopped into tiny cubes (or according to taste)

1 scallion, finely chopped (only the green part)

A small bunch of coriander, finely chopped

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Place the fish on a plate and pour marinade over them. Turn the fish once to coat with marinade, cover the plate with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 20-40 minutes (turn fish at the halfway point).

Mix all the salad ingredients in a bowl. Remove fish from marinade and cut into 1-cm. cubes. Season the salad to taste with several tablespoons of marinade, mix gently, taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve fish cubes alongside the salad, with a touch of olive oil.

Fried denise with orange lentils and green almonds in butter

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

1 cup orange lentils

3 tbsp. butter

Slices of fillet from 4 medium-sized denise fish (8 pieces weighing 80-90 gm. each)

1 kg. green almonds (yields about 1 cup after shelling)

Leaves from 5 branches of thyme

10 cherry tomatoes, quartered

Salt and pepper

In a small pot, bring lentils to a boil with three cups of water. Cook, uncovered, until the lentils are al dente (about 3 minutes). Strain and rinse well in cold water.

In a heavy skillet melt one tablespoon of butter. Gently season the fish with salt and pepper. Once butter is very hot, place the fish in skillet, with the skin side facing down. Press lightly on fish, to prevent them from curling up and to ensure uniform frying. Fry until the skin side turns brown, about 2-3 minutes, and then flip fish, and fry for another 30-60 seconds. Remove fish from skillet and keep in a warm place.

Add almonds and thyme leaves to the skillet and fry for about a minute. Add cooked lentils and fry for about two more minutes. Remove from flame and add the butter and cherry tomatoes.

Stir and season with salt and pepper.

Serve the fish alongside the lentils and almonds.

Yogurt ice pops with honey and green almonds

Ingredients (for 6 pops):

1 kg. green almonds (yields about 1 cup after shelling)

500 gm. yogurt, at least 3% fat

1/4 cup honey

2 tbsp. genuine vanilla sugar

Chop the almonds using a sharp knife or a small food processor (there is no need for very fine chopping, the almond pieces should be big enough to contribute to a crunchy texture).

In a pitcher, mix chopped almonds, yogurt, honey and vanilla sugar into a uniform mixture. Pour the mixture into ice-pop molds. Add a stick and seal with a cover (or improvise molds and sticks in some other creative way). Place in the freezer until the pops are completely frozen.

Remove the molds from the freezer five or 10 minutes before eating, in order to let pops soften a bit. Carefully release from the molds and enjoy.

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